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I have begun to practice meditation. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m a complete novice, and most of the time I’m frankly rubbish, although my teachers are opposed to this sort of talk. There’s no judgment here, they say. More on that another day.

catherine wheel

Picture credit: @somethingness

What’s been interesting is the fact it’s changing my thinking in other ways. I was concerned that daily practice would in some way affect my ability to do my job.
I’ve discovered that my mind is like a kitten in a barn full of mice. It scampers and pounces on every flickering, corner-of-the-eye thought. Each rustle and twitch captures its attention and off it darts.
At work, my mind is a Catherine wheel in continual revolution, firing sparks in all directions. Generating ideas is central to what I do, and the notion of trying to make that frenetic creative energy slow down, even for a moment, has been frightening. Anyone who has ever suffered from writer’s block will understand what I mean.  What if, once the engine stopped, I couldn’t start it up again?

What I’ve realised is that you can apply the framework of meditation to the creative process. I like to call this practice
the Double Drop.
Essentially, you meditate twice. Once to clear your mind, and a second time to let the ideas come swimming up from the darkness. I’m finding it’s a shortcut to ideation: somehow, by slowing down and emptying your mind, only the strongest ideas persist. And you don’t have to struggle and search for them, they’re tugging insistently at your hem like a hungry toddler.

the double drop meditation
Sit in a quiet space, in lotus pose if you can, or with your feet flat on the floor, straight backed. Let your shoulders relax. Close your eyes. Start to observe your breath. Don’t regulate it, just watch as it enters and leaves your nostrils. When thoughts arise, try to return your attention to your breath. Each inhalation and exhalation contains your whole focus. When your mind drifts, simply redirect it to your breath. Begin to enjoy the feeling of peace. The more you do this, the easier it should be to think only of the breath. Apparently.
Do this for ten or so minutes.
Then take a moment or two. Consider the challenge or problem you’re working on. If you’re like me, it won’t have been too far from your mind during the first practice.
Then assume the position once again, clear your mind and focus on your breath. This time, visualise yourself sitting in a silent dark space. Imagine you are sitting in a small circle of light. Inhale. Exhale. At each exchange of breath, imagine that the circle gets a little larger. At last, when you’re sitting in a large clearlit space, notice that feeling of calm, enjoy the clarity and let the ideas come. They’ll come towards you, shyly or boisterously, like woodland creatures, beautiful and fragile, stepping into the light.

Now all you have to do is make them at least ten per cent less good and you’re ready to take them to the client.*

*Of course I jest.

I really have become such a hippie. I blame Australia. Must work harder on retaining my rapier sharp citykid edge.

(if you’re interested in meditation, I  recommend having a chat to the lovely people at the Mahasiddha Kadampa centre).

meditate in sydney

6 thoughts on “o still small voice of calm: meditation and ideation

  1. You said ‘ideation’. Ewwww…

    Seriously though, I practiced meditation for many years in the 90s and again for a period more recently. (Was actually prescribed it!) And you’re right – it isn’t as easy as it may seem. (Falling asleep is considered meditation #fail).

    However, I’ve fallen out of the habit. Need to pick it up again, cause it really does make a difference to not only creativity but also well being.

  2. Of course, for those of us stuck in the traditional 9 to 5 open plan version of the cubicle farm, it is nearly impossible to meditate when you need to the most. “Thinking” and meditation bears a depressingly striking resemblance to goofing off and bludging.

    Meditation is very effective for slowing down your mind and clearing and busting the mental dams so the ideas can flow like a raging torrent downstream (to belabor a metaphor that frankly wasn’t that great to begin with). If only it was as easy to convince the modern day manager of its value to the organsiaion.

    Good for you though, Cathie. Seriously. You will find this to be a very rewarding experience.

  3. @Victoria Serendipitous!
    @Kimota Ideation is a totally legitimate word! As a regular contributor to Words Douchebags Say, I’m pretty aware of when I sound like a walking tool, and I don’t reckon this is one of them…I love the idea of being prescribed meditation though – how enlightened.
    @Shane I liked your metaphor. I think it’s one of the tragedies of the modern age that looking busy is often valued more than doing something genuinely productive. Can you get some of those glasses with eyes painted on the lenses and noise cancelling headphones maybe..?

  4. My OED, which has never been to California, the poor thing, does not list ideation. It is not adaptable or flexible about this: and neither am I.

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